In the words of Martin Paldam, comparative economic voting studies suffer from a ‘great instability’ – i.e., economic effects appear in some countries at some times, but not others, and tend to be weak and inconsistent across studies. Powell and Whitten propose a possible solution to the ‘instability’ of cross-national voting studies: ‘to explain differences in retrospective economic voting across nations and over time we must take account of the political context within which elections take place’. More specifically, they take into account the ‘context of political responsibility’, arguing that voters are more likely to punish/reward incumbent governments if it is very clear which parties are responsible for economic conditions. They find that voters hold government parties responsible for the economy when there is high ‘clarity of responsibility’, but not when ‘clarity of responsibility’ is low.
Over Four Decades', in Helmut Norpoth, Michael Lewis-Beck and Jean-Dominique Lafay, eds, Economics and Politics: The Calculus of Support (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991), pp. 9–31, at p. 26.
G. Bingham Powell Jr and Guy D. Whitten, ‘A Cross-National Analysis of Economic Voting: Taking Account of the Political Context’, American Journal of Political Science, 37 (1993), 391–414, p. 409.
Powell and Whitten, ‘A Cross-National Analysis of Economic Voting’, p. 410.